Horses To Follow » HTF – Britain

Epic Hero

Epic Hero didn’t have a lot of luck in the Group 3 Darley Stakes. Held up early on by James Doyle, a gap closed in front of him on the run to the two-furlong marker when he wanted to go forward. He did chart his way through traffic, despite appearing to become a little unbalanced on the run into the Dip, and he was staying on well when he got squeezed out of it a bit again as the winner Lady Wannabe and the leader Dream Castle came together in front of him. He probably wouldn’t have beaten Lady Wannabe, who stayed on powerfully to win well, but he probably would have finished second if he had enjoyed a clear run.

It was a good return by Simon and Ed Crisford’s horse, after a disappointing run at Sandown in a listed race last month. But they didn’t go a great pace in that race, and he had run well on his seasonal debut to finish second to Certain Lad in the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York’s Ebor meeting. Second to Persian King in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau last year as a three-year-old when he was with Godolphin and Andre Fabre, this was much more like it. He remains a talented individual who should be capable of winning a listed race or a Group 3 race. He holds an entry in a listed race at Newmarket on Saturday, and he will be of interest if he takes his chance in that.

Newmarket, 10th October 2020


Ashington did well to finish third in the two-mile handicap hurdle. Never far off the pace, he travelled well down the hill, and he was just fifth and travelling well as they raced to the second last flight. He made a slight mistake at the obstacle on his own but, worse than that, Sternrubin fell in front of him and badly hampered him. He lost about five lengths and lots of momentum. Theo Gillard gave him time to recover his equilibrium and, once he did, he did well to stay on as well as he did up the run-in past Wild Max to take third place behind Tegerek and One True King.

It was a good run by John Quinn’s horse on his first run over hurdles since last February. He did race twice on the flat, in August and September, so he shouldn’t have wanted in terms of fitness, but this was just his sixth run over hurdles, and he did well to run as well as he did in such a competitive contest. His good runs last season were at Musselburgh and Stratford, both relatively flat tracks, but he proved here that he could handle undulations too. His best runs are on goodish ground, and he will be of interest in a similar contest now. The handicapper left him on his mark of 126, and that is a mark off which he will be of interest in another good two-mile handicap hurdle.

Cheltenham, 23rd October 2020

Fusil Raffles

Fusil Raffles was seriously impressive in winning the two-mile novices’ chase. The four runners stood still for a second or two after the tape went across, but after that, Return Ticket set a good pace, and that suited Fusil Raffles well. He travelled really well through his race for Daryl Jacob, and his jumping was really good. It was a seriously impressive round of jumping from a novice at this stage of the season, his only slight mistake coming at the fifth last fence, when he got in a little tight but was still fast and clever over it. He travelled well down the hill, moved up on the outside of Return ticket as they rounded the home turn, and moved into the lead on the run to the second last. He was very good too over the last two fences, and he went clear of his rivals up the hill. He won by almost 10 lengths, and he clocked a time that was over a second faster than the time that Rouge Vif clocked in winning the handicap chase earlier on the day, carrying the same weight.

This was much more like it from Nicky Henderson’s horse, it was a step up on his chasing bow at Uttoxeter, when he had to battle to beat Quick Grabim, although it is not a negative that the third horse from that race, Gumball, was impressive in winning his beginners’ chase back at Uttoxeter on Friday. Fusil Raffles was an exciting juvenile hurdler two seasons ago, he was seriously impressive in winning the Adonis Hurdle on his first run for Nicky Henderson. He had to miss Cheltenham that year, but he went to Punchestown and won the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle there, when he was impressive in beating Fakir D’Oudairies. Last season was one to forget for him, he was pulled up in the Christmas Hurdle (when he was sent off as joint favourite with Epatante) and he ran poorly in the Champion Hurdle, but he is obviously back on track now. He is a talented horse who jumps fences well and, still just a five-year-old, who has lots of scope to progress as the season develops. It was interesting that Nicky Henderson said that he sees him more as a two-and-a-half-mile horse than a two-mile horse, so it may be that the Marsh Chase will be his Cheltenham Festival target this season, rather than the Arkle.

Cheltenham, 23rd October 2020


Sternrubin was unlucky to come down at the second last flight in the two-mile handicap hurdle. Weak in the market in the face of significant support for several of the market leaders, he was quickly into a nice rhythmm for Sean Houlihan along the inside and jumping well. He travelled well down the back straight, and his rider actually had to take a little tug just before they turned to race down the hill to prevent him from hitting the front in front of One True King. He travelled really well down the hill over the third last flight and, even when the ultimate winner Tegerek moved up on his outside, appearing as a real danger, he was able to hold his position easily on the run to the second last. They picked up at the obstacle within a half a length of each other, One True King, Tegerek and Sternrubin in the middle, all three appearing to be travelling well, but Sternrubin just clipped the top of the hurdle and came down. Tegerek and One True King went on to fight out the finish, pulling over seven length clear of Ashington – who was hampered by Sternrubin’s fall – in third. Of course, we don’t know how Sternrubin would have fared, but he appeared to be travelling at least as well as his two rivals, and it is probable that he would have been involved in the finish at worst.

Philip Hobbs’ horse was running a big race on this, his first run since May 2019. He is nine years old now, he is not unexposed, but he is still more than capable off this type of handicap rating of 140 on this evidence. He has form on soft ground, but he is probably at his best on this better ground, and he will be of interest again now, especially if he can get to run on some goodish ground. He could be under-rated again now because he may not be as fashionable as some younger rivals, and the Philip Hobbs horses are starting to run into form now after a slow start to the season.

Cheltenham, 23rd October 2020

Elle Est Belle

Elle Est Belle was a seriously impressive winner of the mares’ bumper. Held up last of the six runners early on, and kept wide, she moved easily into the home straight. She made her ground under a motionless Harry Skelton from the three-furlong marker, she joined Windswept Girl inside the final furlong, and she moved clear effortlessly to win by six lengths.

This was Dan Skelton’s filly’s competitive debut, she hadn’t run in a bumper or in a point-to-point before this, but she was strong in the market, even allowing for six non-runners, and she couldn’t have been any more impressive than she was. She was comfortably better than Windswept Girl, who had won her only bumper, and she finished well clear of Hunny Moon, who had also won her only bumper. There is plenty of stamina in her pedigree, her dam is a half-sister to Carlitos, who won a handicap chase over two miles and six and a half furlongs at Newbury on soft ground, so she should get further than two miles in time. A half-sister to Rock On Rocco, who won a novice hurdle for Tom George last February and who ran well in a novice chase at Kempton last week, she is only four, and she will be of interest now in a better mares’ bumper. This is a race that has been won by good mares in the past, including La Bague Au Roi and Posh Trish, who won the listed mares’ bumper at Cheltenham’s November meeting on her next run, and that is surely the logical target for Elle Est Belle now.

Aintree 25th October 2020


Jacamar put up a game performance to win the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. Strong in the market beforehand, Milton Harris’ horse was dropped out in rear early on by Paddy Brennan. His jumping was good and he made nice ground on the outside as they raced out of the back straight. He travelled well into the home straight, and he stayed on strongly down the outside to get past Sir Ivan on the run-in and then to get the better of Strong Glance, who had travelled well into his race on the far side, and he won well in a good time.

This is usually a good handicap hurdle, the last two renewals have been won by Stoney Mountain and Paisley Park, both of whom went on and won the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in November, off handicap ratings that were, respectively, 4lb and 7lb higher, and that race a legitimate target for Jacamar now. He was racing from 3lb out of the handicap, and the handicapper will give him a few more pounds now this week, but he is only five, so he has lots of potential for progression now as a staying hurdler. It was just the second time that Paddy Brennan rode him in a race, and it was interesting that he said afterwards that he learned a lot about the horse when he rode him at Fontwell last time. The Maxios gelding has never been beyond two miles and five furlongs in his life, but he stays two and a half miles on soft ground well, and he could improve again for a step up to three miles.

Aintree 25th October 2020